U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on countries on Thursday to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims until the military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.
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It was the first time the United States called for punishment of military leaders behind the repression, but stopped short of threatening to reimpose U.S. sanctions which were suspended under the Obama administration.
Haley's remarks came just a day after Israel's High Court gave a secret ruling on a petition against Israel's weapons sales to Myanmar.
"We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be - a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority," Haley told the UN Security Council, the first time Washington has echoed the UN's accusation that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State was ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar rejects the accusations and has denounced rights abuses.
"The Burmese military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing," Haley said.
"And any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place," Haley said.
With the violence directed at the Rohingya minority intensifying recently, the European Union and the U.S. have both banned arms sales to Myanmar, making Israel the only Western nation supplying the country formerly known as Burma with weapons. Some 421,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the past month, as the UN and others raise allegations of ethnic cleansing.
Responding on Monday to a petition in Israel's High Court of Justice from human-rights activists demanding an end to the arms sales, state representatives reiterated their position that the court shouldn’t interfere with Israel's foreign relations and not tell it which countries it is permitted to sell arms to.
Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun denied at the United Nations on Thursday there was ethnic cleansing or genocide happening in Myanmar. He told the Security Council that Myanmar had invited UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to visit. A UN official said Guterres would consider visiting Myanmar under the right conditions.
China and Russia both expressed support for the Myanmar government. Myanmar said earlier this month it was negotiating with China and Russia, which have veto powers in the Security Council, to protect it from any possible action by the council.